Would you like to know what to expect in some of the Ports of Call while on a British Isles Cruise?
If you said yes then you’re in luck as we just finished a British Isles Cruise and documented some good advice & tips on what to see and do to make your cruise there even better!
As for the Cruise ship and Cruiseline we sailed with, it was on the “Azamara Journey” with Azamara Club Cruises, which by the way, is a GREAT Cruise line to take a vacation with as they offer amazing value with all their inclusions! If you would like to learn more what the experience is like onboard Azamara Club Cruises then visit our review here from our last Cruise with them: Our Azamara Club Cruises Review
Our embarkation on the beautiful ship above was in Copenhagen, a city you’ll surely fall in love with for it’s old charm & character. Our second visit there was as good as the first 5 years ago and the blog post we wrote then is still as relevant today. In it you will read recommendations about what to do and see and also a little about it’s history. Check it out here: Best Attractions in Copenhagen
When we left the docks of Copenhagen we sailed across the North Sea to charming Edinburgh, Scotland, a place steeped in history & colored in Medieval Gothic & modern architecture…
… it’s no surprise that it’s Old Town and New Town area was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is well worth a stroll about.
Once you arrive in Edinburgh, you will dock in Leith and then take a 15 minute shuttle ride to the city center to explore the area.
What to do?
1. If you are in port in August and are staying longer hours or overnight, book The Edinburgh Tattoo. It is by far the #1 attraction in Edinburgh, which is just outside the gates at the Edinburgh Castle, & people come from all over the world to see it. That said, you will need to book months in advance to get a seat, so don’t forget to book early!
2. Hire a tour guide to take you around & explain the history of what you are seeing in front of you. It’s hard to appreciate the history as you would by knowing the story behind it all. BUT if keeping costs down is a priority then…
3. Take the Cruise shuttle into the city and walk the Royal Mile along High Street that takes you from Edinburgh Castle (above) a historic Fortress worthy of a visit, all the way to the other end where the road ends at Palace of Holyroodhouse. This was the residence of the “King & Queen of Scots” for years and where Queen Elizabeth spends a week each Summer to perform Royal duties and attend ceremonies. Both stops have an entrance fee & we suggest skipping the long line and purchase your tickets in advance online. Expect to spend 1.5-2 hours at each castle and account for many stops for shopping and LOTS of picture taking along High street too.
TIP: Pack layers for your British Isles Cruise… The weather can be rather cool & rainy, so just be prepared.
Our second port stop was in Liverpool, England. The city celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2007 and is filled with character including maritime heritage & musical history stemming from the famous band “The Beatles.”
What To Do?
- 1. Take a Beatles Tour even if you are not a die hard fan. See where famous events happened and important landmarks of Beatles history including their childhood homes and Strawberry Field.
- 2. Liverpool we noticed is an easy walkable city that you can step off the ship & wander to any landmark in the city in 5 to 30 minutes. At the port alone there are a number of museums and landmarks to see as you start walking along the pier including a free visit to the Maritime Museum. We put some money in the donation bin as we found it really interesting & worth the visit… you won’t believe how and what people try to smuggle from country to country using watercraft, it’s jaw dropping!
- 3. We also walked and toured the “Liverpool Cathedral” which is 2nd largest Anglican Cathedral in Europe which is said to be one of the worlds greatest examples of Gothic Architecture… so if you like that kind of thing, then you REALLY want to visit. It took 74 years to complete the church finally in 1978 including piecing together her grand organ that has 10,268 pipes. Check out her picture below. (Check out our pictures of our Cruise here and see the “AzAmazing” Evening we were treated to at the Cathedral!)
- 4. Then, take a walk to St. George’s Quarter if you want to marvel at more historic buildings and don’t forget to step inside St. George’s Hall, the World Museum, Central Library and the Art Gallery… you don’t want to miss that!
- 5. Just before heading back to the ship, make your way to the pedestrian only shopping area on Lord Street to fill you hands with a few gifts. Tip: Did you happen to forget a few things from home? Then stop by the dollar store called “Pound World”… We picked up a few items and couldn’t resist the 4 chocolate bars for 1 pound- You wouldn’t know but they were starving us on the ship… Hardly! Laughing out loud.
Next stop… Holyhead, Wales which is separated from mainland Wales only by a causeway & the town itself has very little to offer visitors but fortunately it’s location gives us cruise travelers easy access to some of the best attractions in the Country, most within an hour and a half.
Most cruise passengers take advantage of the 1/2 or full day tour of Wales… which is one of the most scenic places in all of the UK (in our opinion) especially Snowdonia National Park. But if you want to take it easy and do your own thing you can walk about Holyhead & see several points of interest including the Maritime Museum, St. Cybi’s Church and take a steam powered train ride.
We chose a bus tour of Northern Wales (http://www.busybus.co.uk/wales-from-holyhead) and we loved every minute of it! Wales is a scenic agricultural land with 3 million people & 9 million sheep! So as you can imagine, with that many sheep there are stunning rolling green hills galore and winding mountainside views. Check out this picture below…
Below is a recap of where we went and some facts about the area:
In North Wales we visited:
Two UNESCO World Heritage Castles called Caernarfon (picture below) & Conwy, and browsed their picturesque towns.
Snowdonia National Park which is located in the North-west side of Wales. With it’s breathtaking views of the mountains and lakes & valleys AND the freshest air possible, it’s a must see as you can tell from these pictures below:
Betws-Y-Coed, the Capital of Wales, and one of the most scenic with tons of outdoor activities to be enjoyed plus a unique slate built church and so much more. It’s a town you would want to visit again to go camping, hiking and enjoy relaxation with nature surrounding you.
And last but not least we visited a town famous for its name… it’s the world’s longest written word called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch. No, we are not kidding, but our computers spell checker is refusing to accept it. LOL
What We Learned While In Wales:
The local spoken language here is Welsh not English. It’s language is like Gaelic but nothing like the English language as you might think.
The economy is driven mainly by tourism & farming.
The UK or United Kingdom is made up of these 4 countries: Ireland, Scotland, Wales & England. “Britain” is pertaining to the island, and because Ireland is a separate island, it is not considered Britain.
A local Guide told us that if lets say a famous person from Ireland wins Wimbledon, they say in the news, “a Brit wins Wimbledon” but if he loses they will refer to it as “Irish loses Wimbledon”. Too funny!
Our next stop… Dublin, Ireland. It is both the largest city and the Capital of Ireland & located on the east coast of the island at its mid point & at the mouth of the Liffey River.
Dublin was founded by the Vikings giving it a long history dating back to the medieval times & today is a vibrant city.
While here, the highlights in our opinion are:
1. Taking in a pint & an evening of live Irish music in one of the many historic pubs here in Dublin.
2. Taking a stroll through Dame Street & Grafton Street where you can shop, people watch and be entertained by talented street performers.
3. Visit the Guinness Storehouse and taste this famous creamy beer
4. Snap pictures of both St. Patrick’s & Christ Church Cathedrals and visit Dublin Castle.
5. You can see all of the above & more from the comforts of a Hop on Hop Off Bus & walk about & explore your favorite site
6. Catch a Theater performance. You can see what events are on here: Ticketmaster Dublin, Ireland. We pre-purchased tickets to Riverdance and thought it fitting as Dublin is where this famous production first started. We would highly recommend it if it’s on when you visit. TIP: Just be sure not to buy tickets for the first few rows as you may not see their feet, this production is better with some distance between you and the stage.
Which Irish pub should you visit?
GOOD TIP: Many cruise lines suggest going to Temple Bar but we would tell you to stay away. Many locals generously warned us that they overcharge for food and drinks and take advantage of visitors. We went to Darkey Kelly’s Irish pub on Fishamble Street for their 6pm live Irish music, the place is busy with locals so we knew it was the spot to be! Don’t like beer? Try Bulmer’s Cider.
Want to eat the best fish & chips in Dublin?
Up around the corner from Darkey Kelly’s is a fish and chips place on Werburgh Street called “Leo Burdocks”- its not fancy, but it’s delicious!! Ask for tarter sauce on the side & don’t bother with the mushy peas, they were good at other places we ate in the UK but not there.
Isles of Scilly, Great Britian
…was our next stop. We learned it was owned by the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles.
It is Pronounced “silly” & consists of 150 isles but inhabited by only 5 of them…
On this port stop, we had a chance to visit 2 of the Islands: Tresco Island & St. Mary’s. On Tresco Island you can visit Abbey Gardens that dates back to the early 1800’s. It’s a nice walk and almost entirely flat for easy walking. On St. Mary’s Island, the highlight is Hugh Town, a cute small village with pubs, shopping & tea houses.
TIP: Have dinner in a specialty restaurant onboard this evening and get the most romantic views of the islands and cross your fingers for a bright sunset like we had to top off then evening.
One of THE nicest seaside port cities we have ever visited and a place we would definitely visit again.
Dartmouth has it all. A 14th Century Castle at the mouth of the narrow port entrance to the city -which you can snap the best pictures of on the tender boat that brings you into town.
It also has a protected port surrounded and sheltered by green hills which has drawn a large boating community and lots of cute shops. You can take several scenic boat tours and a steam train ride- we highly recommended you take the full day and explore by both the boat and train to see all the preserved old buildings, sea side towns, hill top houses and surrounding quaint villages. You can purchase tickets once onshore if you like.
St. Peter Port, Guernsey
This was our final stop on this British Isles itinerary.
Like Dartmouth, it has a stunning entrance as the first thing you see is the Hornet Castle. Once inside you can walk about this hillside city, but beware, it is hilly and you will get a bit of a workout walking around the winding streets. Completely worth it but if you have disabilities maybe book a bus tour to see the highlights.
Well, there you have it!
Some valuable Tips, Things to do and see & What to expect in some of the Ports of Call while on a British Isles Cruise. If you want to see more pictures of the sights and cruise, check out our album here: Pictures & Videos of Our British Isles Cruise with Azamara Club Cruises.
Stay tuned for our next post which will be about the beautiful city of London, England which we roamed for 4 nights after our Cruise & have lots of great tips to share with you!
Nancy & Shawn
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!